Monday, December 13, 2010

Gift Ideas 2010

Over the years my boys have been given a few gifts that have been, for whatever reason, unique, something their friends don't have, something a lot of parents aren't aware of, or something that is just hard to find.  Here are a few of them with some background on why I think they're great.

KAPLA 280 Piece Block Set With Red Advanced Animals And Architecture Book
1)  Kapla blocks.  First of all I should tell you that at first glance these blocks don't seem exciting enough for any child.  They are all the same.  Just plain, wooden, blocks. 

They were "invented", perhaps I should say "created" by Tom van der Bruggen, a Dutch gentleman who moved to France to restore a ruined farmhouse into a castle.  And with them, you can make amzing creations.  They remind me of building with popsicle sticks.  Luckily the options are more versatile and the structures more stable.  I sense scepticism and if that's the case check out the photo gallery at

If you're interested in education check out the website's blurb on "pedagogocal value" and you'll be convinced.

The image at the right is from Amazon but you can buy them in Canada from Mastermind Toys in Toronto (another one of my absolute faves for both product selection and customer service) with free shipping if your order is over $100.

2)  Snowshoes

Lots of people ski with their children - either downhill or cross country.  Virtually everyone skates.  But not many kids snowshoe.  If you're a family of hikers, many trails remain open to snowshoe hikers in the winter.  It's a great way to take a walk in the wood off-trail and to demonstrate the fun of walking on top of the deep deep snow.  Just take off your snow shoe now and then and see where you end up.

Snowshoes have come a long way and are now easily manageable for children.  Let them walk around your back yard a bit first to get a sense of them and then head up to the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre in Old Chelsea as there is a simply trail nearby.  You can purchase them at The Expedition Shop on Richmond Rd. between Churchill and Roosevelt, at Mountain Equipment Co-op, (and likely at Trailhead and Bushtukah or Mountain Equipment too).  They run between $80 and $150.

Perplexus Maze Game by PlaSmart, Inc.3)  Perplexus

Ok, not as hard to find as the others, perhaps because it's also the genius child of Ottawa's very own PlaSmart.  If your child likes mazes, creating line-ups and structures then this is a good bet.  It requires no batteries and has the same all-absorbing effect of a video-game.  It's just better!

4)  Cathedral

Cathedral ClassicThis is a quick game testing your ability to understand spatial relationships - it takes about 15 minutes and depending on your child's liking of and apptitude for logic games is suitable for ages 5+ (though the manufacturer recommends 8+).  It's available locally at Playvalue Toys on Carling (just before Churchill),  There is both a wooden version and a version with modern structures such as the Empire State Building.  I like the wood myself.

5)  Miyu  Magic Stones

Find them online at and they can be purchased in Canada from (great store in Toronto).  If your child is into rocks, collecting and wizardry then this is for them! 

You can purchase a black velvet pouch, a black treasure box or a black collection box.  Each comes with a starter stone collection (3 in the pouch and 6 in the boxes) with up to 40 stones available.  The collection box has a compartment for each stone. All stones come with a description  the zodiac sign and its magic powers (all good, not evil).  You can even sign up on line to become an apprentice wizard (though we've had a set for a while and haven't actually done that part yet).

For more detail of what the stone's can do for you, read the site's introduction by "Gliph Abar, The High Wizard of MiYu".

6)  Survivor (Escape from Atlantis) Boardgame (2010)

Survive! Escape from Atlantis - PREORDEROK.  This shouldn't really be here.  It would be a really good option's not likely to be available until December 27th.  We have pre-ordered one  from Stronghold Games, the American company granted the rights to redo this 1981 Parker Brothers classic.  The game sells for $34.97 USD when pre-ordered - a 30% savings from the regular price.  Shipping is extra and was not cheap - almost $25 - but we did have it shipped directly to the recipient so that saves a bit.  And frankly shipping is rarely cheap.

We moved our family of 5 into a 2-bedroom apartment this summer and for some reason my husband dug this game (the 1981) version out from somewhere.  We didn't take a whole lot with us and we played this game regularly.  My 9 year old invited practically every child in his class back to his apartment to play Survive.  It was a decided hit.  Moreover, it makes a great Christmas present becasuse you know no one has it yet.  And frankly I don't think a lot of people remember it anyway.

So we have ordered it for our 11 and 13 year old cousins who won't mind if what they actually get on Christmas Day is a picture of their present instead of the real thing which should arrive a few days later.